Medically reviewed by Neka Miller, PhD on July 10, 2020. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
Suspect you could be experiencing symptoms of HIV? If so, keep reading to learn more about the early signs of HIV—plus get more information on HIV testing (including home testing with the Everlywell at-home HIV Test).
But first, before discussing HIV symptoms, let’s go over what HIV is.
HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is a sexually transmitted virus that spreads through exposure to certain body fluids—like genital secretions or blood. HIV transmission can also occur from a mother to a child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.
HIV attacks and impairs the body’s immune cells, which weakens the immune system and can eventually progress to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) if it isn’t treated. AIDS can be a life-threatening condition, particularly if HIV treatment is not initiated promptly, which is why HIV testing is crucial for protecting your health. HIV infection passes through an earlier stage before the development of AIDS: acute HIV, the period right after the infection began. If untreated, the infection progresses to chronic HIV (which may or may not have noticeable symptoms) and ultimately AIDS.
Learn more: What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?
How long does it take to show symptoms of HIV? Some people experience flu-like symptoms at the start of an HIV infection. These early HIV symptoms usually develop within 2-4 weeks in an infected person and may last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. This early stage of the viral infection is known as an acute HIV infection.
Possible early symptoms (acute HIV infection) include:
It’s worth keeping in mind that such early symptoms can also be caused by other health conditions—not just HIV. In short, if you’re experiencing these symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have HIV—which is why STI testing and consulting with your healthcare provider can be helpful next steps to take.
What is usually the first sign of HIV for an HIV-positive person? Fever is at the top of the list—it’s one of the most common initial signs of an HIV infection. The fever may be accompanied by other early HIV infection symptoms like fatigue, swollen lymph glands (or lymph nodes), and a sore throat.
Wondering why you are feeling so tired all the time? Those who feel fatigued early on in the HIV infection might feel winded or out of breath while walking or performing daily tasks.
Swollen lymph nodes develop when your body fights infections. Lymph nodes can swell in the neck, armpits, and groin—and lead to aches and pains.
Skin rashes can occur as both early and later symptoms of HIV. An HIV rash can be itchy, reddish, and painful. In some cases, the skin rashes look like boils that are itchy with pink breakouts. The HIV rash can also appear as a flat red area on the skin covered with small bumps.
Digestive problems like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are also common signs of an HIV infection.
Night sweats can happen both as an early and later HIV symptom.
A sore throat and a severe, dry cough can occur, as well. If you have an HIV-related sore throat, or other symptoms related to HIV, it's best to consult a healthcare provider to learn what steps to take next.
Most symptoms of HIV in an infected individual are similar among women and men. However, women may also experience recurring vaginal yeast infections (vaginal candidiasis).
If you have had unprotected sex with an HIV-positive partner, it’s important to get tested. You can do this from the comfort and privacy of home with the Everlywell HIV Test.
Test for HIV from the privacy and convenience of home with the at-home HIV Test. Our testing kit is discreet and easy to use.
It’s a good idea to be aware of AIDS symptoms, as well, which can include:
You can test for HIV from the privacy of your own home with our at-home HIV test kit. Only a small sample of blood is required (collected via a simple finger prick), and your results are easy to view on our secure, online platform. If you do test positive for HIV, be sure to mention this as soon as possible to your healthcare provider and learn from them what HIV medicine and/or treatments they may recommend.
What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?
Can you get HIV from oral sex?
HIV Window Period: Key Points to Know
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2. About HIV. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed July 10, 2020.
3. Early HIV symptoms: What are they? Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed July 10, 2020.
4. Side Effects of HIV Medicines. AIDS Info. URL. Accessed July 10, 2020.
5. Crum-Cianflone NF. HIV and the Gastrointestinal Tract. Infect Dis Clin Pract (Baltim Md). 2010;18(5):283-285. doi:10.1097/IPC.0b013e3181f1038b
6. How Can You Tell If You Have HIV? HIV.gov. URL. Accessed July 10, 2020.
7. Vaginal Candidiasis May Sometimes Be An Early Warning of HIV Infection. AIDS Info. URL. Accessed July 10, 2020.